Fantasy novel by James Stoddard, a sequel to The High House. * * * 1/2 (explanation)
Carter Anderson, Master of Evenmere, has vanquished the Bobby and thwarted the anarchists' plans to take over the High House. Of course, this doesn't mean they are totally quiescent. One night, Carter is awakened from a dream about a dreadful happening at Innman Tor, one of the nations contained within the house (and onethat had especialy suffered under the anarchists). The Master leaves for Inmman Tor immediately. He arrives just as the anarchists have dug into the crater where the Tor once stood and removed a treasure of some sort Even with the use of his Words of Power, Carter is unable to prevent the anarchists from spiriting the trasure, whatever it is, away.
Traveling back to Innman Tor with his brother Duskin, Carter meets and falls in love with Sarah, daughter of Innman's ruler, Count Aegis. But during the same trip, Count Aegis's ward Lizbeth vanishes without a trace.
Six years of searching fail to turn up Lizbeth. Carter and Sarah are married but never forget the kidnapped litle girl. All of a sudden, strange things begin to happen throughout the house. Gnawlings, predatory creatures that masquerade as furniture before springing on their (occasionally human) prey, learn how to mimic human form. Jormungand, the dragon in Evenmere's attic, is getting weaker. Enoch, the House's Windkeep, lost his way while making rounds he has been making for three thousand years. This is a taste of the most frightening happening of all: the House appears to be rearranging itself!
Meanwhile, Lizbeth has been spirited away to the Outer Darkness, and set up as a Queen of Loneliness. Lizbeth appears to be doomed to spend the rest of her life in solitude in a False House, a sinister copy of Evenmere, founded upon Evenmere's stolen cornerstone. Will Carter and Duskin be able to rescue her and restore peace to Evenmere? Read the book to find out!
"I could be mistaken for Father Christmas, except I consumed him in the sixteenth century. The elves were the hors d'oeuvres. But don't tell your children. Mustn't upset the little ones."
James Stoddard's second novel, while still worth reading, does not have the same pull on me as its predecessor does. The High House made you feel drawn into a morality fable. But in The False House, Evenmere becomes less fabulous, less metaphorical and more supernatural. There is less wonder and more exposition, probably because things that seem wondrous often become less so when viewed up close. We are treated to a great deal of the house's architecure, physics, metaphysics, politics, history, geography (if that term is appropriate), mythlogy, sociology, and Judeo-Christian theology crossed with Moorcockian mythology. Unlike the first book, theology appears less part of the fable and more like something the author's trying to sell.
"He's not a human being, and he has no claim on my charity. I gave him my heart, and he took and pinched it to death, and flung it back to me. People feel with their hearts, Nelly, and since he has destroyed mine, I have not power to feel for him, and would not, though he groaned from this to his dying day."
By some miraculous coincidence, I happened to read Wuthering Heights immediately before beginning The False House. This was a stroke of luck, as references to Emily Bronte's novel abound, and the novel itself becomes a component of the plot. Without it, I would have missed a great deal. Stolen childhood, deception, loneliness, betrayal of trust, betrayal of ideals.
The False House has plenty of good stuff amid occasional rubbish. But be sure to read The High House first, and probably Wuthering Heights as well.